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  • Writer's pictureDr Victor Thompson

Why do athletes take the drugs or dope, when the risk are so high?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

  1. If we believe (or see) that what we are doing (or taking) is having a positive impact on performance or recovery (and then performance), then to stop would mean harming performance and who wants to do worse or make things more difficult?

  2. There is pressure to perform well: From sponsors, team management, team mates, and the public/fans. Can you perform up to those expectations, live with the consequences of not meeting those expectations, or will you give in to the temptation of taking something illegal to give you more confidence in your performance? The fear of failure is a strong one.

  3. There are personal and professional needs to be satisfied. Athletes are competitive. Some have a strong need to be successful, gain glory, be seen on TV, be accepted, praised, beat a key rival, show that our training has been worth it, that we are as good as or better than before... It’s tempting then to take something that would help us deliver and satisfy these needs.

  4. We believe that others are doing it - it's normal. Then it’s only fair to also take something. Not taking something would put us at a disadvantage, and it is difficult enough to deliver a top performance.

  5. We might not get caught. Others are doing it, that’s what we think and are maybe being told so by others.

  6. We are creatures of habit. We do today what we did yesterday. We do this year what we did last year. We will generally follow a similar regime and make the same performance enhancing choices as we did before.

  7. Failure is a massive negative. We want to avoid this at all costs.

  8. Drugs are accessible - from people in our sporting circle, from the internet.

How to be a clean athlete:

why athletes dope take drugs sports psychology blog image

  1. Realise that taking banned performance enhancing products is a choice, your choice, no matter what pressure may be exerted on you.

  2. Accept that the probability of getting caught is high. Plus, if you don’t get caught now, you will forever be at risk of being caught and retrospectively outed, shamed and punished.

  3. Accept that the consequences of getting caught are prohibitive – whether this is loss of face, embarrassment, shame, dent in income, long-term ban or whatever is severe enough to be a deterrent to you.

  4. It is healthier for your mind and body to not take in certain substances and to not have the stress of hiding and cheating, or forever wondering if you will be found-out.

  5. Have faith or a strong belief that the cheats will be caught.

  6. Have confidence that if your performance drops you’ll be able to absorb this and won’t be crushed by it. Your performance is important, but not life and death (drugs can be). You are more than your performance. In 20 years, this performance will likely be less of a big deal in your life.

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